By Chris Collins
Baker City students earned top honors displaying their writing, speaking and artistic abilities around the theme "Value Life, Beginning to End," in a recent Oregon Right to Life contest.
Seven of the first-place winners attend Harvest Christian Academy.
Other winners were Johnathan Cunningham, Grades 7-9 essay contest; and Luiz Fernando, who took first in the kindergarten art contest. Both are religious education students at St. Francis de Sales parish.
Whitney Lemmon, 17, a junior at Harvest Christian Academy, a private school, won the oratory competition with her entry titled "Planned Parenthood: A Life Saving Work or the No. 1 Legalized Killer in America?"
Whitney posed as a 14-year-old pregnant girl online to gather information for her speech.
She said she was disappointed that the agency did not offer adoption as an alternative. Instead, she was told she had two options: Have the baby or have an abortion.
"They talked about how they wanted to get me to a clinic," she said. "They could help me without letting anybody know."
She was awarded $40 for her winning speech.
And though Whitney gave the only speech, her entry was top-notch, said Matt Cunningham, who coordinated the contest with his wife, Elsa.
"I think she would do well, even if there were more competitors," Cunningham said.
Members of the St. Francis parish served as judges for the event.
"We (the whole of our group and St. Francis de Sales parish) continuously pray for the protection of the unborn and an end to abortion," Matt Cunningham said.
The goal of sponsoring the contest is to help educate young people on the issue of abortion.
"It's to bring youth into the issues of abortion and euthanasia in a noninvasive way," he added.
About 50 students entered the different categories of the contest. There were no entries in this year's short film contest.
All first-place winners will advance to the state contest where they will compete for more cash prizes.
Summer Phillips, a 15-year-old sophomore, also won $40 as the top finisher in the Grade 10-12 essay contest. She wrote from the perspective of an unborn child whose life is ended when her mother undergoes an abortion.
"It made her dad cry," Whitney said of Summer's essay.
She wrote from the perspective of the child the woman would never know: "She thought she would feel relief once I was gone. That I would be easily forgotten - that's what society wants her to believe.
"The reality is I'm always with her, a grievous memory that can never be erased. If only someone would have heard my cry for help, if only someone valued my life."
Freshman Baylee Bell, placed second in the Grade 7-9 division with her essay on the topic of suicide prevention. After a person in her life died by suicide, Baylee said she wondered how she might have helped.
"Suicide does not only affect the person who dies," she wrote, "it affects everyone around him and his family and friends."
Other winners from Harvest Christian Academy were sophomore Brielle Sand, 15, who placed first in the high school art competition. Kylie Barnett, 14, an eighth-grader, won the art competition for Grades 6-8.
Sixth-grader Dallas Hardesty, 13, placed first in the Grades 5-6 essay contest. Her sister, Emma Hardesty, a fifth-grader, placed second.
Fifth-grader Jakeb Zednik, won first place in the art contest for his grade division. And Emily Christy, a second-grader, won first place with her drawing in her division.
The Cunninghams said they would like to see more older students compete in the future.
"The message is to spread Christ's love," Elsa Cunningham said. "It's valuing life."